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About ERP Systems

Dream Big

Michael Roman - Monday, September 07, 2015

Here is one from the archives...

We Stopped Dreaming

The driving force that led me to become a Management Consultant was a simple idea: Dream bigger. The big moment of realization for me happened at a rather comical lunch meeting with my boss at the time, the company’s owner, who wanted to discuss a problem we had with missing shipping dates for a new customer. The Chinese restaurant where we met was a favorite of mine and not far from the plant, and my boss had reluctantly agreed to go there even though he was leery of eating “different” food, especially Asian.

We arrived just as a supply truck passed by and pulled around to the back of the restaurant. We entered the establishment, and I introduced my boss to the owner. She directed us to a quiet area not far from the kitchen, and my boss was noticeably nervous about the place. I assured him not to worry because their food was fresh and delicious. We focused in on the discussion, and I explained the engineering problem that caused the order to ship late, as well as the best way to avoid the problem in the future. Satisfied with my assessment, he acknowledged how much he appreciated my ability to get to the point quickly and explain the situation in a simple and concise fashion. He then added that my work ethic was inspirational, especially in light of the fact that I was not really a part of the “wealth stream of the business.” I asked him to explain what that meant, and he replied, “You are not family or one of the company’s lifelong friends, so you will never get to share in the wealth that we have planned for our retirement years.”

I was speechless for a moment, and then said, “I thought there was enough opportunity to include all of the company’s employees in the wealth stream”. He replied that it was simply impossible to do so, that it was his mission to ensure that this small group of stakeholders had a comfortable future.

At that moment, the server came through the kitchen door with our meal, followed by the chef who was chasing a cat with a meat clever and shouting at it in Chinese. The look on my boss’ face was priceless. He immediately arose and said, “I’m leaving. Fresh cat is not in my diet.” He headed for the door, and I stifled my laughter as I left money to pay for the meal and followed him out. The owner stopped me to apologize and explain that the cat snuck in while they were unloading supplies from the delivery truck. I told her it was okay and suggested she may want to institute a policy not to accept supplies during the lunch or dinner rush.

I was reminded of this true story a few days ago while I was watching Neil deGrasse Tyson’s videos on YouTube. It is entitled “We Stopped Dreaming Part 1” and “We Stopped Dreaming Part 2”and is worth a few minutes of your time to watch and consider. I left that company shortly after that incident, because I realized that the owner’s dreams for his company were too small to include rewards for the very people who were most responsible for his success.

Today, my goal when working with companies is to help them dream big. The odds of properly implementing an ERP System increase proportionally with the commitment of C-Level people and with dedicated involvement of the user community. As my business adviser so often and simply states, “A company can't stop dreaming. It has to take bold steps. It has to become a team with a bold mission. It cannot rest on its laurels and wait to see what everybody else does before taking a new step forward.” And he is absolutely correct!

In my opinion, the best motivator is to help everyone see a bright future. Let them know that the future is brightest when the organization unites around a common goal and all the players are doing their part to focus the company around that goal. That is what ERP systems are all about, helping people in different departments of an organization come together to manage the business better and build the business to the point that everyone can reap the rewards.

Don’t stop dreaming, and don’t let your dreams be small. Dream big, and include everybody in that dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But Your Duck is STILL DEAD

Michael Roman - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

There is a page on the Manufacturing Practices website that has been there for about five years. It tells the story of a company that called asking for an opinion about interfacing their "Job Management Tool" to an ERP System. Their goal was to use the accounting piece of that system. Here is the link: I'm Sorry But Your Duck Is Dead.

I won't drag out the issues involved, but suffice it to say that they contracted for remote custom education to help them better understand what an ERP System is and is not and what the ERP System will do for them and TO THEM. The effort was a success. The son and the feisty business owner who thought the proposal was "outrageous since I did not EVEN know their business" (his words, not mine) signed the note.

During the education, we explained why KPIs were more than Key Performance Indicators and why we refer to them as “Keeping People Involved®.” Many benefits were automatic outcomes of that education including, proper Forecasting, Forecast Error measurements, Cycle Counting efforts, On Time Shipments, Throughput Improvements, Project Management considerations, and Leadership requirements during and after the ERP Implementation. You know, those things that make manufacturing companies competitive in the marketplace instead of, “oh yes, by the way, we also make things.”

The thank you letter did not come immediately after the class; it was months after they started using that ERP System that the letter came. By sending the letter, they were saying that we truly helped make them successful.

I remember my first argument about the role of education; it came when I was a programmer at Control Data, writing an MRPII System for mini-computers. The education effort involved having other peers (programmers) review the LOGIC, produced before the code writing. What a stupid idea, I rationalized, I’ve been programming for more than 6 years, why should I have to think about what I am about to do before I do it. The ANSWER came when management asked us to write a program to put a Bill-of-Materials and put all the parts in a table arranged by Low-Level-Code.

Half of the group just wrote code for the request and half the group did it the “new way.” My program was 100+ lines of code long, which was about half way between the upper and lower number of lines of code for others in the first group. The ‘other group’, as a team, wrote the program in ten lines of code after creating the proper logic to deploy to write the code.

The real shocker really came with our tests. Where our group did not have a “successful” first run attempt with test data, the other group did. With that, both groups saw the reasoning behind management’s desire for us to think first, and only after that, act. Our “ready, fire, aim,” quickly became, “ready.., aim.., fire.” When Manufacturing Practices, suggests that companies understand what ERP is before they look for, implement or re-implement an ERP System, we teach them the lesson of “ready.., aim.., fire.”

Here is a take away. Business owners and C-Suites must constantly monitor the expense of education against an investment in their people. Businesses have no way to measure the accumulative costs of remaining complacent. However, by failing to invest in people, leaders assume absolute business risk and at best, the possible loss of any competitive advantages. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions." 


APICS News-May 5 2015

Michael Roman - Monday, May 04, 2015

I’m very pleased to share exciting news about our organization. APICS and American Society of Transportation and Logistics (AST&L) will announce tomorrow that the boards of directors of both organizations have approved an agreement under which AST&L will merge with APICS upon ratification by AST&L member vote.

The merger will expand, extend and deepen the end-to-end supply chain body of knowledge that fuels APICS global supply chain research, education and certification programs. Together, APICS and AST&L offer unmatched content and subject matter expertise that will enable individuals and organizations to meet key supply chain challenges.

This agreement acknowledges the importance of transportation and logistics, and the tremendous innovation impacting delivery processes today. It also reflects our commitment to keeping our content and capabilities at the forefront of our industry, providing our members, customers and the supply chain community at large the most up-to-date, relevant and complete body of knowledge. This is a strategic combination that paves the way for us to fortify supply chain education and certification in the areas of transportation and logistics.

If AST&L’s members vote to approve the merger, APICS intends to integrate AST&L with its existing operations. We anticipate the transaction to be complete in July.

While we are excited about the possibilities ahead, our main objective is to continue to provide excellent service to our members and customers. Thank you for your support as we prepare for these exciting changes.


Best regards,

Abe Eshkenazi
Chief Executive Officer

Save the Date!

Michael Roman - Monday, April 06, 2015

Assemble an Innovative Inventory of Business Tools and Processes

 A Three-Prong Approach to Operational Improvements

 

  

Save the date! 

You won't want to miss the opportunity to participate in this seminar that will cover multiple facets of operational excellence and efficiency for manufacturers. Presenters with various areas of expertise in working with manufacturers will share insights, tools, tips and takeaways that you can implement immediately for operational improvements. 

Mark your calendar for Thursday, May 7 and keep an eye out for more details
in the coming weeks.

 

Topics to Include:

 

Management as Leadership
Presented by John Purcell of Transform

If you've always heard that leadership and management are different, you will be interested in John's perspective that management is leadership. We'll also discuss getting results as you build relationships and why both are critical. We'll also paint a picture of what a healthy leadership team looks like.

 

Effective Accounting Processes: Grow Profits, Reduce Risks

Presented by Iliana Malinov, CPA of HLB Gross Collins, P.C.

Business leaders must continually identify opportunities to grow build upon existing profits. Often there are untapped resources and overlooked opportunities within a business that can be unleashed, creating the opportunity for increased profitability. Effective navigation of industry-specific regulations, documentation requirements, tax credits and deductions is critical for manufacturers. Improve your bottom line through some simple planning steps and available opportunities that are often overlooked.

 

Operations & Supply Chain Management
Presented by Mike Roman, CPIM of Manufacturing Practices, Inc.

Improving a company's bottom line does not happen magically. Companies earn it through smart improvements. Smart improvements come from smart people using smart technology in smart ways. ERP is smart technology and Operation Excellence fosters its smart use through KPIs (measuring results that keep people involved), and Operations and Supply Chain Management mastery which Manufacturing Practices calls planning for success. This presentation is a must see for C-Level people, interested in improving the value of their company and the value contributed by their employees.

Save the date: 

May 7, 2015

11:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m.

At the Office of HLB Gross Collins, P.C.

More details will be forthcoming

Sponsored by:
HLB Gross Collins, P.C serves clients both locally and around the globe.    
  
  

ERP & LEAN

Michael Roman - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

By Jerry Tiarsmith, VP Operations, Manufacturing Practices, Inc.

Proponents of LEAN processes often seem at competitive odds with those who support the use of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. While we at Manufacturing Practices, Inc. (MPI), favor the use of ERP systems by our clients, we also recommend complementary LEAN processes to effect discreet process improvements where needed.

LEAN processes improvements differ dramatically from ERP system deployments. Lower level management personnel and frontline supervisors typically conceive and execute LEAN projects.  LEAN processes most often focus on small scale, tactical process improvement to eliminate various forms of waste from that process. More than just a process, an ERP system acts as an important management decision support system that holistically integrates key corporate functions. This integration helps reduce internal communication barriers, enhance cross-functional management awareness, and speed the management decision-time cycle process to provide a competitive advantage.

The assorted benefits of incorporating LEAN processes within an ERP system deployment prove important, but empowering employees to support needed change and pursue continuous improvements to productivity are priceless. We see ERP as the “Go To” System when making decisions about resources (labor, cash, materials) necessary to run the organization.  We depend on ERP to determine which monetary investments will deliver the biggest bang for the buck.  ERP also helps us understand which markets need a focused sales campaign and where to position inventory for better customer service.

One cannot simply describe ERP systems as a process methodology. In effect, ERP systems connect the strategic vision and business planning of the corporate executive team to the execution of the planned production processes and to the control systems on the factory floor. 

Ready to convert your legacy data?

Michael Roman - Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Ok.  You educated the company about what an ERP System is and is not.  Everyone now knows the difference between a Master Schedule and a Master Production Schedule.  They have reviewed and addressed the non-value added activities in their processes.  They used those processes to define a set of vendor scripts and the company found the best fit for those new processes from a list of potential ERP vendors.  The contracts are signed the kick-off meeting is over and user training is finished.  Now you can convert your legacy data.  Is that correct?  Well, maybe not.

Have you cleaned up that legacy data?  How many part numbers do you have for a 12” by ½” Standard Thread Bolt?  You hope that there is only one per material type.  Nevertheless, there is also Part 11205 - 12” by 0.5” Standard Thread Bolt.  There is also Part 1205 - 12” x 0.5” Bolt with Standard Threads and also Part 112005 -  twelve inch x ½ inch standard thread steel bolt.  You also looked at your vendor list and you see Jones Plumbing and Supply, Jones Plumbing, Jones Plumbing Supplies, and Jones Supplies.  Strangely, they all have very similar addresses like 1225 Oak, 1225 Oak Street, and 1225 Oak St.  You find some of the same problems in your vendors.  You check the AP Terms and see a Net 10, a Net 10%.  Do you still think it is time to convert your data?  Where else should you look?

You can ignore those problems and choose the one Part, Vendor, or Customer most often used, but what happens if there are balances for some of those abandoned items?  Say Part 1205 has 12000 on hand, Part 11205 has 400 on hand, and Part 112005 has 400000 on hand.  You must not forget you are you are using last cost, and each of those Parts has a different inventory value.  What if there is an AR balance for a customer with three names but the same entity?  Alternatively, what if there are open balances for the same Supplier with three different names?  Do you still think it is time to convert data?  How will you be able to compare inventory values after the conversion to insure data integrity?

That is not an easy question to address and if you ask an accountant they will likely say compare the inventory value between the old and new systems.  So are you going to bring those problems into the new ERP System?  That may be ill advised.  What do you do?  Currently there are not a lot of tools available to remove data duplication for these types of problems.  Often times, companies accomplish control through a set of manual standards. 

We had this problem at a company and quickly addressed the problem for the parts file by creating a description definition template.  The client had 30 Engineers in the company and each was responsible for product development.  Our implementation time line did not allow time to spend attempting to reach consensus in that effort, so the VP of Manufacturing made a command decision.  He defined by material type for our source materials (steel, titanium, aluminum, etc.) and by function, bolt, screw, washer, nuts, etc.

We also created a set of database rules that looked at how we defined supplier and vendor addresses and applied processing rules to not allow ST, St, ST, St., Ave, AVE, etc, etc., ETC, ETC.  We spent a good portion of the conversion effort creating those database rules and new screens.  Continuity moving forward was our goal and besides, we had a huge number of Bills-of-Material that needed changing to remove the old parts and use only one version of those parts moving forward.  This whole effort required much more time on the schedule than the original implementation plan had.  Nevertheless, the company management felt that it was time well spent.

How has your organization addressed this issue?  What have you done to clean-up legacy data during the conversion process?

Four Superhero Ways to Show Courage in Leadership

Michael Roman - Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Manufacturing Practices, Inc. guest blog by Lee Ellis

What is your greatest fear in your work? What is the one thing that you don’t want others to know about you? Perhaps it’s burying past mistakes or poor decisions, or maybe you’re in a new leadership role where you feel ashamed or ill-equipped about your lack of formal education or work experience. If you don’t handle these nagging, fearful thoughts and feelings, then they will manifest unhealthy leadership attitudes like control and manipulation. 

Unfortunately for many people, the term courage has been limited to the examples that we see in action films or books—the superhero leaping from building to building, jumping out of an airplane to land on a moving train to get the bad guy, or simply using sheer power and strength to overcome obstacles. In reality though, most courageous acts happen in everyday life, but they may never get as much recognition on the movie screen.

Here are some powerful ways to show courage every day in your work –

1. Be open, honest, and transparent

From my experience as a junior ranking prisoner in the Vietnam POW camp*, I was able to observe the leadership of our highest and best officers and occasionally some of the worst. The most consistent theme was courageous transparency. In the POW camps, all the niceties of leadership were immediately stripped away along with the former advantages of power and authority. Higher ranking officers were naturally the ones that the enemy focused on first and the most often. They were subject to torture more often, more isolated, were beaten more often and yet they still had to lead, make policy and then live by the policies they made. They could not hide their interactions with the enemy because it was obvious to everyone; however, they were transparent about it. When they were beaten into submission, they would admit what they had done. The environment was amazingly transparent. There was no pretending, which quickly revealed true character. There was always temptation to take a shortcut or say something to get the enemy off your back. In that process, I saw that courage was the key to leading with honor.

2. Learn to trust and be trusted

Leaders need to take the time to build trust. It’s so important for success in work, and I don’t believe that much emphasis is given on this important principle during formal training and leadership development. Most leaders know that they need to do some teambuilding, but they automatically think that’s singing Kumbaya and hugs; but to create an authentic level of trust, you must get to know each other. One of the best ways to be open and gain trust is taking a personality assessment and sharing the results. A personality assessment** is the common denominator to understanding somebody’s leadership style, his or her strengths, struggles and fears. Knowing that about each other helps to build trust among team members.
 
3. Apply accountability through a core set of values and ground rules

The issue of accountability is huge and doesn’t get enough attention; it’s often absent when clarity is lacking. Accountability and clarity go hand in hand, and those two important concepts require leaders to define a core set of values. Organizational or team values have to be operative and not aspirational. You can have aspirational values, but you need to be clear that that is what they are. For instance, if the value is against gossiping but we still gossip, then it’s not a value; it’s an aspirational value. Having those few core values, then preaching them from the highest to lowest levels so they are inculcated into daily work life, builds a work culture. Values will hold you together and give you the freedom to empower people in ways nothing else will. Teams that build ground rules or rules of engagement for how they will work together can hold each other accountable in positive ways.

4. Make steady, daily progress developing your team or staff

Professional development of others may not seem like a courageous act, but to do it on a consistent basis is a hallmark of great leadership. Leaders have to be developing their people all along the way, all the time, and they need to go first by setting an example of personal growth. This allows the leader to have the credibility to mentor, coach, and make expectations known, all the while clarifying why you do things a certain way and telling stories about how you learned about this value or that leadership principle.

Making the Shift

There are many ways to be a courageous leader, and these are just a few practical ways. But you may notice that the common thread in these examples is shifting your inward focus on fears and inadequacies to an outward focus on doing the right thing to be an example and help others. If you’re focused on building and equipping others to succeed, then courage will eclipse your own personal fears. Choose at least one of these courageous acts of leadership, and commit to applying it in your daily work. What other powerful ways do you show courage every day? Please share your comments – 

LE

Watch my definition of courage and leading with honor in this clip:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQqh-_gYZQY

As president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee Ellis consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, human performance, and succession planning. His media appearances include interviews on networks such as CNN, C-Span, ABC World News, and Fox News Channel. His latest award-winning book about his Vietnam POW experience is entitled Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. Learn more at www.leadingwithhonor.com.

 

NUMBERING THOSE PARTS

Michael Roman - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

In Honor of Don Frank, CFPIM, CIRM

In 2004, when Manufacturing Practices, Inc. began, I once again called on Don Frank, CFPIM, CIRM a mentor and dear friend for guidance and joint business opportunities.  We began working on a book and several seminars to help focus the book.  Unfortunately, Don’s health very rapidly failed and I lost him to the ages.  He wrote this piece several years earlier and delivered it at an Atlanta APICS dinner meeting in the 1990s.  He told me to use it when the time was right.  After engaging in a recent discussion on LinkedIn about Part Numbering schemes, this seems the appropriate time.

NUMBERING THOSE PARTS

Let’s go back to basics when we talk about part number attributes.

  • First, part numbers are the data elements or objects that enable us to separate each part from all others as we, in design and operations management, communicate information to each other.
  • Second, the part number enables us to access all the data elements associated with any part in our systems, validating its uniqueness and ensuring we are processing the part we intended. 
  • Third, a part number, assigned to a document, such as an inspection or test report, should appear on bills of material. 
  • Fourth, construct the part number in the simplest lean manner—a pure, sequential numeric form. A good rule for part number length is to add one digit more than the maximum conceivable  number of parts that will ever be in the system. With just eight digits, we can define 99 million unique parts!

People who object to this principle are mostly holdovers from punch card days when, because of the space limitations on the cards, putting intelligence into part numbers.  That perception was the thought that it is necessary for part recognition. Experience, which goes back more than 50 years, was that, even with the limitation of 78 usable columns in a punch card, we could rely better on good part descriptions, rather than remembering the part number, to communicate for what the part number stood.

One of the lessons learned early was to make the part number and drawing number identical, saving a critical amount of space in the part record and making configuration management via revision codes much simpler. We increased the length of the part number to 10 characters, left justified, with the format nnnnnn-nnn, where the first digit represented the drawing size (1 for A size, 2 for B size, etc., so we knew where the drawing was filed). The dash and last three digits we reserved for use with tabulated drawings where several parts represented on the same drawing. An example of this was a set of heat sinks, all made from the same extrusion, but with different lengths, hole patterns, and inserts.

Today's part master databases, with a hundred or more data elements or objects associated with any part master record, enable us to find and visually determine the uniqueness of each part right at the workstation. Original drawings are most often digitally stored rather than on paper. String searches are quick and effective, zeroing in on the part in question in a matter of milliseconds. Just clicking on the part number gives access to all the needed information. We can even hyperlink to a 3-D drawing of the part if necessary.

Highly visible good descriptions will eliminate any excuse for the extra non-value-added task of establishing and maintaining part number coding systems. Descriptions should have two segments—a generic standardized family word description followed by a modifier that differentiates each of the parts in the family. Examples: stainless steel passivated cross-recessed machine screw 10-32 x 1; film fixed resistor 1200 ohm ½ watt 1%.

The first exercise in standardizing part descriptions resulted in reducing the number of parts to support the master schedule from about 5,000 to about 450. The cost savings actually paid for the budding inventory management system.

Another lesson learned was never to use the supplier’s part number as the internal part number because it is too restricting. If you have to change supplier or add an alternate, you create another part number even though the parts are truly interchangeable. Today’s systems allow multiple entries of supplier, supplier part number, and even supplier price against any part number.

Finally, there is still a huge configuration management gap out there because engineering mindsets and product lifecycle management part master data use revision code, and our enterprise resources planning systems use effectivity by date, lot, or serial number.

Here is a word of caution. Do not arbitrarily change existing part numbers when upgrading or implementing new information systems. There is too much engineering, marketing, sales, customer, and supplier documentation out there with embedded legacy part numbers to justify making this type of non-value-added change. Set up a dual-key (alias) system so the system can respond to either old or new part numbers. However, do not allow the sins of the past to perpetuated in newly generated part numbers—use the simple, numeric, and sequential scenario.

Frankly, the only reason we have to put up with long, heavily coded part numbers today is tradition. All new parts generated should have simple, short numeric part numbers. After all, it only takes at most eight digitsto create 100,000,000 Part Numbers! Lean thinking demands we take this approach to intelligent part numbering.

Leadership Intuition

Michael Roman - Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Guest Blog by Lee Ellis

Several years ago my strategic partner and good friend Hugh Massie, Founder and CEO of DNA Behavior® International, mentioned that he was learning to trust his gut instincts more. That caught my attention since he is a CPA by training and a very results oriented, rational person.

Then as I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, I learned about this idea of the “second mind,” as he called it. Gladwell raised the visibility of the power of intuition, but I suspect that it was only for a short time for most people.

Last summer at the National Speakers Association Convention I met a leadership consultant who was building her speaking platform around the idea that leaders (who have mostly been trained like engineers to trust rationality and disregard feelings) needed to learn to use their intuition more to make better decisions. 

Just recently I read another impressive book, THE WAY OF THE SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed  and was interested to see that author Mark Divine, a former CPA and Navy SEAL, made instinct (awareness of gut feelings) a major theme of the book. His proposition is that leaders should train like Navy SEALS to intentionally use both rational (conscious mind) and instinctive (drawing from the unconscious mind) inputs to make the best decisions.

Albert Einstein didn’t read Blink, and he certainly wasn’t a Navy SEAL, but evidently he discovered this related theory early on, saying, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

I’m seeing a pattern from these different points on the topic of intuition, so let’s explore it a bit deeper.

So what is the gift?

Intuition is about listening to your subconscious mind (gut instincts) to pull forward information and feelings that you’ve accumulated over a lifetime. Warriors have to rely on instinct, using every possible sense from outside and every stirring from inside to stay alive. Having a good visual memory for shapes and landforms is crucial for a military pilot. Being able to store and recall patterns of logic and information is important for an entrepreneur or business person.
 
Emotional memory is probably the strongest memory that we have, and it’s also the one most quickly accessed. Emotional memory is the one we feel in our gut, and it helps us access the gigabytes of memory stored in our subconscious faster than any processor yet made. So, intuition is this stream of awareness that flows from our subconscious to our conscious, but it requires our tuning in to hear the signal.

Can It Be Learned?

The short answer is yes, but the issue is whether you will develop your awareness and then allow intuition to move from your gut to your mind. It’s not a problem when data is tagged with emotions; it’s ready for quick retrieval and usually easy to access. At other times, it’s as simple as stopping to ask yourself, “What is my gut telling me about this—what is my intuition?”

Sometimes data needed for intuition needs help in getting to our awareness, and this situation is where we have to be more intentional about accessing it. It usually means taking time to shut down our rational thinking and reflect usually in a quiet setting away from distractions.  Sounds a lot like meditation and prayer, doesn’t it? I believe it’s very similar and can be the same. Reflecting, waiting, and listening with our feelings for insight is a practice used by wise people throughout the history of civilization, and in our increasingly fast-paced society it’s a lost art. If we ignore or fail to cultivate the intuitive half of our decision-making abilities, we become less than our best as leaders and merely rely on the facts at hand.    

My Experience

I think that I’m a very logical and rational person, but I’ve also been blessed with a gift for patterns and a good memory. In recent years I’ve learned to value what these gifts reveal to me and trust my intuition more. I do have to be careful about not jumping to conclusions with too little rational information, but overall I’m feeling more confident in my decision-making and greater commitment to execution. 

What about you? What has been your experience? How often do you integrate your intuition in your decision-making? Why do you believe that some leaders ignore or don’t develop their intuitive abilities when it would produce better results and greater success? Please share your thoughts and comments.

About Lee Ellis

As president of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee Ellis consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, human performance, and succession planning. His media appearances include interviews on networks such as CNN, C-Span, ABC World News, and Fox News Channel. His latest award-winning book about his Vietnam POW experience is entitled Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. Learn more at www.leadingwithhonor.com.

More information about the Adams and Jefferson comparison is featured in the Leading with Honor Group Training program. To learn more, go to http://www.freedomstarmedia.com/training.

 

 

Keeping Faith & The American Dream

Michael Roman - Sunday, November 10, 2013

This is not about ERP - A Guest Blog by John Del Vecchio Managing Member of Charlie Foxtrot Entertainment, LLC and a Vietnam Veteran.

On Saturday, November 9, 2013, the Johns Creek Veterans Association held a ceremonial Ground Breaking for its Veterans Walk.  John Del Vechhio made these remarks.

Wayne, John, Robby, Gerry, members of the Johns Creek Veteran Association, and town administrators, thank you for allowing me to participate in this dedication.

What a lovely memorial. I can picture it completed, see citizens coming here, walking through, or sitting, contemplating the plaques, the names, the events, the meanings.

And what a lovely country we live in. What an exceptional country we’ve inherited. Memorials remind us that this has been at great cost.

I would like to tell you some of my thoughts on The American Dream, and on Keeping Faith with those who have gone before us, with those who have sacrificed so much, with those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and from whose hands we’ve taken the torch to hold high.*

I am thinking of friends who did not make it back. Thinking of advice heard many years ago. “There is a reason why you are here and they are not. It is your duty to find the reason, and to live your life in such a way as to make their sacrifice not in vain.”

We have been given days, and years, and decades which others have not. How do we Keep Faith with them?

What responsibility, what duty, do we have--not just those of us who made it back, but we, The American Citizenry—what duty do we have to those who made it possible for us to be here today in this wonderful nation?

Does Keeping Faith mean more than saluting the flag and standing for the national anthem before a ball game? Is saying, “Thank you,” enough? Or does Keeping Faith mean something more?

Does it perhaps mean understanding our Rights and Freedoms as American citizens? Does it perhaps mean being vigilant and protecting those Rights and Freedoms when they are being attacked from without or being eroded from within?

Does it mean overseeing national decisions as to how our current military is used, and ensuring that it is not being abused?

Our troops—soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and the coast guard, in Viet Nam, in today’s wars, throughout our history—have been the will to defend, the will to pull the trigger. Without that will no nation can survive. Keeping Faith with them requires of our leaders, and of all of us, that we do not waste the will.

Let me back up.

As you know, I am a veteran of the fight opposing Hanoi’s war of expansion which sought communist hegemony over all of Southeast Asia. In 1970 and 1971 I was an Army combat correspondent with the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). Our area of tactical responsibility—we referred to this as our Area of Operation or AO—was northern I Corps, below the DMZ, from the South China Sea west through jungled mountains and across the A Shau Valley to the Laotian border. Our mission was to provide security for the civilian population in the densely populated lowlands by engaging a heavily armed, infiltrating force in the sparsely inhabited mountains.

When I was writing The 13th Valley in the latter part of the 1970s, the media was filled with negative stories about American troops. I wanted to tell the story of what I’d seen, of amazing soldiers doing impossible things in this unforgiving terrain. I wished to set the record straight for the 101st. I knew the media definitely had it wrong about my unit—and assumed they were talking about the Marines. I did not know, at the time, about Dai Do. For me that came later…John Kachmar**... (Mr. Del Vecchio presented him with a copy of book)… you’ll find a story of Dai Do beginning on page 115 of Carry Me Home...   The Marines, too, were pretty awesome.

How can we keep faith if we don’t know what these men did; why they fought; what was the cause; who was the enemy, and why did we oppose that enemy? Why did we engage in the fight in the first place? Who are we, We Americans, to go on extended excursions to foreign lands?

To answer to those questions would, of course, take semesters, but allow me to mention a few seldom recalled details about the origin of the war; and let me also mention that knowledge—truthful knowledge, not politically correct propaganda—is a miracle elixir… It lifts the spirits, and ameliorates the suffering of PTSD.

Let’s go back to I Corps—before America showed up. And to Hanoi. In January 1959—more than five years before the Gulf of Tonkin Incident—the politburo of the Communist Party of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Viet Nam [North Viet Nam], met in secret session in Hanoi and declared war on the South. During that month-long meeting three logistic routes from the north to the south were authorized. These were known as Routes 559, 759, and 959, for the month and year of their inception. Trail 959—September 1959—went west from Hanoi into Laos, then south into Cambodia; 759 was a series of sea lanes and landing areas, including the circumnavigation of the Ca Mau peninsula to land men and materiel at the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville; and 559 became the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail in eastern Laos with spurs crossing the DMZ, running south, down through I Corps, through the A Shau valley and the mountainous jungles west of Hue.

The first waves of communist fighters using these infiltration routes were political terrorists. One should make no mistake—our involvement, though not known at the time by this term, was a War on Terror. By 1960 communist terrorists from the north were assassinating between 50 and 100 South Vietnamese hamlet, district or province officials—including school teachers—each and every month! The terror grew to 100 assassinations and approximately 800 kidnappings per month by 1962. Terrorists terrorize! Hanoi dubbed this policy the ‘Elimination Of Tyrants’ campaign. Tyrants, I guess, meant to them hamlet chiefs and school teachers!

The 1962 numbers for South Viet Nam would be the 2013 equivalent of terrorists killing or kidnapping more than 250,000 American. A quarter million victims! And this was happening before the war “heated up.” At that time U.S. forces in Viet Nam numbered 900 in 1960, 12,000 at the end of 1962.

So were we right to engage in this fight?

Could anyone knowing and understanding what was happening question whether or not our forces were on a humanitarian mission?

The next six years, to Tet of 1968, received the far more, but not necessarily far more accurate, attention from our media.

Some less known but interesting facts and figures: Following the 1968 Communist Tet Offensive, the South Vietnamese citizenry, previously untrusted, was armed. Over the next three years, while US forces were reduced by 58%, communist terror attacks (assassinations, abductions and bombings) on villages and hamlets dropped 30%, small-unit attacks dropped 41%, and battalion-size attacks dropped 98%!

At the same time, rice production increased by nearly 10%, war related civilian injuries dropped 55%, and enemy defections increased to the highest levels of the war. Armed, the South Viet Namese citizenry became an effective force in protecting themselves and their property from an organized terror campaign.

Ahhh… but were we ever told this?

Or had our national focus shifted? In the pursuit of freedom errors and abuses had been made. Our attention was no longer on the pursuit, but only on the errors and abuses.

For those of you who served in later wars, feel free to extrapolate this scenario. Some things have not changed.

Critics of the War in Viet Nam called all tactics into question. You may recall Ted Kennedy condemning U.S. military operations in I Corps, in the A Shau valley, at Dong Ap Bia, at Ripcord and Khe Ta Laou. Seemingly he had forgotten that terrorists were infiltrating via this very route.

His focus, along with that of much of the media, had shifted. Recall the My Lai massacre: from exposure of that incident in 1969, to 1972, 473 nightly TV news stories focused on that one atrocity, yet not a single story was aired about the 6000 communist assassinations of South Vietnamese,  non-military government personnel in 1970 alone.

If we perceive American troops as barbarians—as undisciplined baby killers or drug addicts; or if we are ignorant of the foes atrocious acts and ultimate aims—can we say we have kept faith with those who fell?

Errors and abuses were addressed; American ground forces were withdrawn by early1972; the armed southern population carried the bulk of their own local defense; yet America’s focus remained on “the American atrocity.”

This political momentum led to the abandonment of our allies, and the people of Southeast Asia. The abandonment can be inferred by economic support. The US budget for the war, adjusted for inflation, fell by over 95% from 1969 to 1974. Weapons and ammo in the South became relatively scarce. In comparison, the final communist offensive which toppled the Saigon government employed 500 Soviet tanks, 400 long-range artillery pieces and over 18,000 military trucks moving an army of 400,000 troops down the Truong Son Corridor—that is through western I Corps below the DMZ, past Ripcord and Dong Ap Bia, through the A Shau Valley, and south. 400,000 troops!

U.S. abandonment of the South Viet Nam lead directly to 70,000 executions in the first 90 days of communist control; to the death of millions in Cambodia, to a half million Boat People fleeing the new oppression—many of those dying at sea; to more than a million people being incarcerated in gulag re-education camps; and to the communist ethnic cleansing of Laos.

Keeping Faith means knowing these things. It means remaining vigilant when the propagandists are stressing the errors or abuses that we as a nation have committed; yet simultaneously omitting the good, the honorable and the valorous we accomplished. Even worse, when they ignore the evil which we opposed.

Let me digress.

America the beautiful: it has been miraculous. Exceptional. A beacon… the shining light on the hill guiding those seeking freedom.

This is not genetic. We are the great Melting Pot, a land which has welcomed the diverse, huddled masses… a land which once celebrated the diverse aspects of all cultures, but that also subordinated diversity to unity—e pluribus Unum, Out of Many, One.

So if not genetic, could it be the system established by our Founding Fathers?  A system derived from concepts of the High Renaissance, forged in the rough environs of the new world, and perfected in conflict with tyranny?

Is it not that which we defend; which we proffer others; for which we risk our lives, the lives of our countrymen, the lives of our sons and daughters?

A number of years ago I came across the following thought, but I have rarely seen it repeated.

American Exceptionalism begins with the phrase: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of -------- Property. Yes, property! That was the 1774 wording from the Declaration of Colonial Rights drawn up by the First Continental Congress.

The concept of happiness, as you might suspect, was quite different 240 years ago… you know, back before TV, Movies, X-boxes, NASCAR or Atlanta Falcons. At the time Property and Happiness were almost synonymous. The hot topic of the day was Citizen versus Subject… A citizen could own property; a subject could only use the property of the sovereign, and then only with the sovereign’s permission.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of property: this is the American Dream. The pursuit of property means a person has the unalienable right to earn, to build, and to keep much of the fruits of his labor, ideas and diligence—without them being taxed to the extent they are taken away. This standard exhorts all to go forth and excel; it tells us that from our exertions we can, and should, benefit. The American Dream is not the house with the white picket fence, but the freedom to build, to have, to own and to be secure in that house.

This culture which the founding principles foster—through all the ups and downs and bumps and warts of the centuries—has provided not just the highest standard of living in human history, but the greatest liberty to develop self and family, ideas and ideals, associations and institutions.

Academics have interviewed infantrymen to discover why they fight. Scholars tell us that soldiers fight for their buddies, for the guys next to them, for the team. But they tend to miss the fact that motivation is not singular, nor is it always understood by the individual. The academic view, beyond a doubt, is accurate, but it is also shallow.

Protecting Mom, apple pie, and The American Way against all enemies foreign and domestic are all elements of that motivation. Yet the last may be subconscious. It is certainly more difficult to express. After all—my guys, Mom and apple pie are tangible; the American Spirit and a constitution establishing a government given rights by citizens, versus a regime in which subjects are given rights by a ruling elite—that’s a bit esoteric.

We fought and fight for all these reasons and more; but if we contemplate the sacrifice of so many, if we truly believe they did not die in vain, apple pie (and I love apple pie) comes up short.

So… when we—those of us given years others have not been given—judge ourselves, the criteria must include how true our lives have been to the great founding documents of our nation.

Without knowledge of our founding principles, without an accurate understanding of our foes and why we engaged in battle, we are at peril of losing the way—not simply for ourselves but for future generations. Let this be a challenge—a gauntlet thrown at our feet.

It is the preservation of American Exceptionalism that is worth fighting for, worth living for, worth risking life and limb for. It is the perpetuation of that Exceptionalism—built upon the dreams, aspirations and labors of free citizens—which makes the ultimate sacrifice of so many not in vain.

We have been given days, and years, and decades which others have not. Have we lived our lives in such a manner they would approve?

To those who have not had the years and decades, I wish to say: From your failing hands you threw us the torch to hold high; and you said, “If ye break faith with us who die; We shall not sleep…”*

To you, dear brothers, and dear sisters, I wish to tell you that there are many here, and millions across this beautiful land, who have not and will not break faith with you.

Rest easy. We have your backs.

*From: Flanders Fields by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD

**Kachmar: Marine, 2/4 @ Dai Do; highly decorated; Purple Heart

ED - John Kachmar is the City Manager of Johns Creek, GA

ED - Here is a link to Mr. Del Vecchio's Book - The 13th Valley  http://www.the13thvalley.com/

ED - You may contact Mr. Del Vecchio at johnd@charliefoxtrotfilms.com